Part Two: For those like me who enjoy the science
After discussing the application and benefits of exogenous ketones in my last post, I want to dive into some science behind them and highlight the differences between various types to arm you with the knowledge to make the right decision.
What Are Ketones?
Natural, Clean Energy
Ketones are our fourth fuel substrate, they are clean-burning as they reduce the production of potentially harmful Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) inside cells. Plus they also clean up ROS produced from other metabolic processes.
Ketones have been shown to be preferable fuel for the brain over glucose as they aid in brain development. When ketones are present they preserve glucose for pentose phosphate pathway which results in ribose for DNA syntheses and NADPH for lipid biosynthesis
Before we touch on ketone supplements you must first understand the mechanism that defines the state of ketosis. Simply put, when your body is in a state of ketosis, ketone bodies are present in a higher concentration than normal (0.5+ mmol/L). I have discussed this further in the previous post
Three Ketone Bodies:
- Acetate (Acetone): Is the least abundant, produced in much smaller amounts, and is usually exhaled through the lungs rather than being used as fuel.
- Acetoacetate (AcAc): Is part of the metabolic pathway whereby humans make and use ketones, but it tends to be found in the blood at lower levels than BHB.
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) Is the most prevalent of the ketones. Due to far higher concentrations and existing outside the cell, compared to Acetone and Acetoacetate it is widely used to measure ketone levels.
Two Forms of BHB:
- D-β-hydroxybutyrate: The right-handed version.
“D” comes from the Latin dexter.
- L-β-hydroxybutyrate: The left-handed version, lab-made ketones.
“L” comes from the Latin laevus.
D-BHB vs. L-BHB: Which is better?
There is currently a lot of controversy around which form is safest and best to use as a supplement form. One side argues the D-BHB is superior in enhancing mitochondrial function, whereas other evidence suggests a mixture of D & L is handled better and more beneficial for neurological diseases and cancer. L-BHB is thought to be a signaling molecule to reduce inflammation and has been shown to also convert a portion to D-BHB. Additionally, the production of D-β-hydroxybutyrate (right-handed) is a more expensive supplement to produce.
When measuring it may appear that D-BHB promotes higher blood ketone levels. However, that is because most commercial ketone measuring devices only measure D-BHB, not L-BHB.
To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a comprehensive study to truly determine if D-βHB is more beneficial than DL regarding general use applications, or value to the consumer from a financial perspective.
History of Ketones
Ketones are nothing new, it is just our understanding that has changed. beginning, in 1865 scientist discovered a molecule called acetoacetate in the urine of diabetic patients. Acetoacetate is a ketone or also known as a ketone body. Through discovering acetoacetate ultimately led them to identify BHB.
In identifying them, they began seeing BHB in high concentrations in uncontrolled diabetics (Ketoacidosis), thus leading scientist to label ketones as bad. However, as our understanding has grown this was shown to be short-sighted and to predominantly be a factor for uncontrolled diabetics patients.
Ketoacidosis is Not Ketosis
I know it sounds similar but they are the same.
Ketoacidosis or Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication of type 1 diabetes mellitus. Associated with a dangerously high combination of ketones (much higher than ketosis) and blood sugars which makes your blood too acidic. As limited insulin is available for the cells to adequately uptake the sugar (glucose) in the blood to use for energy. Ultimately this can alter the normal functioning of internal organs like your liver and kidneys. It is a critical condition that requires prompt treatment as it is a life-threatening condition and often occurs quickly within as little as 24hrs.
DKA Ketone levels can increase up to 20-25 mM, which decreases blood pH, whereas a state of ketosis is determined as 0.5-3mM. With an upper threshold of 7-8 mM (e.g. during very-low-calorie Keto Diet and use of exogenous ketone supplements).
DKA is a predominantly a factor for type 1 diabetes but individuals with type 2 diabetes who have little or no insulin production, need to be careful as it can occur if not controlled.
- Ketone salts: This is the form found in most ketone supplements available on the market. Ketone salts are a compound consisting of a mineral ion, such as sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and BHB. Ketone salts are high in electrolytes; so they can aid replenishing electrolytes lost in urine while on the ketogenic diet.
- Ketone esters: Ketone esters are primarily used in research and are not currently available to consumers. This form consists of pure beta-hydroxybutyrate or Acetoacetate without other additives.
- MCT Oils: Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) doesn’t contain BHB but has been shown to moderately raise BHB levels. MCT’s require a greater amount of processing than other exogenous ketones thus taking longer to get into ketosis. Along with this, MCT’s are a more calorie dense which could be counterproductive for those needing to watch their caloric intake.
What Ketone Supplements do I use?
I personally utilise a mix of MCT Oils and Ketone Salts. I have used them for close to two years now and couldn’t imagine life without them especially the Pruvit (ketone salts).
My goal is performance and un-tapping my potential, I can’t settle for suboptimal, I want to always be performing at my best. Therefore, I use these supplements in many varying capacities from training and racing (triathlon), speeding up my recovery, to increase my mental capacity and clarity (ps. I am functioning on ketones as I write the majority of my blog posts 😉 ). Aside from performance end I also utilise Pruvit for longevity and to keep hunger at bay and extend my fasts so perfect for travel or when on the go with no good food insight or time, this gets me through these dangerous moments and keeps me functioning at a high level without hunger pains or cravings.
MCT Oils (Bulletproof or Melrose): I use this mostly when I need a little bit of mental and energy boost, but mostly to keep my hunger at bay. Plus sometimes to blunt the effects of those carbohydrate treats for me this normally means MCT Oil on my fruit salad.
Ketone Salts (Pruvit): MCT is great but nothing compares with Ketone Salts, this would have to the biggest performance enhancing supplement I have ever taken, it is my rocket fuel!
Mixing Things Up:
I have traditionally taken each supplement separately until recently when I came across research stating the benefits associated with a combination of both Ketone salts (BHB) and MCT’s. This combo has been shown to further elevate the BHB response in the blood. Plus as it has a delayed gastric absorption it extends and sustains a higher elevation of blood ketone level over a longer period. The combination is looking extremely promising as it appears to be better than either ketone salts or MCT’s alone. Even better, it has been reported that it may remove the adverse gastrointestinal emptying effects of MCT oil that is often associate when MCT is taken on its own. However, further research is required to identify ratios and best application
Recently I have been playing around with my own ratios and I have introduced MCT oils into my staple long ride fuel of ketone salts and so far it has been great but I will keep you all posted with how I get on.
Pruvit or Keto OS, which stands for “Ketone Operating System,” They were the first to patent to ketone technology, meaning they are most widely researched and used. Pruvit, is now one of the quickest growth nutrition based companies and has posted 400% year-to-year growth since its inception and is showing no signs of slowing down as it has recently moved into Canada, Asia, and Australia.
“I Need to Try Ketones for Myself!”
Flick us at Taylored a message and we can get you set you up with a trial.
Subject: Ketone Trial